February 1, 2016

Lagavulin 16 Year Old

Lagavulin 16 Year Old Single Malt

If you’ve been following the Game of Drams at all, you’d be aware that Dr Dram and I are huge fans of peated whisky. As such, I thought it would be appropriate that the topic of today’s review be one of my favourite classic drams and possibly the whisky that started the trend of drinking peated whiskies.

Lagavulin 16 Year Old

Whisky Info

Distillery: Lagavulin
Region: Islay
Category: Single Malt
Style: Peated
Price: $$$
Bottler: Distillery Bottling
Bottled: 2015
Bottle Code: L5189CM000 (03338109)
Strength: 43%abv
Age: 16 Years Old
Mashibill: 100% Malted Barley
Cask: Bourbon Cask Matured & Sherry Cask Finished

Lagavulin 16 Year Old Single Malt

Review & Tasting Notes

4.6 Whisky Fiend
Must HaveVerdict

Colour: Amber

Nose: Bonfire at the seaside; strong peat, light iodine and vanilla, lovely oak and ham, rich mature sherry at the end.

Mouthfeel: Decadent; Smooth, rich, thick, oily, chewy goodness, mouthcoating; None to minimal burn.

Palate: Opens with rich oak, followed by roaring peat smoke that grows to the finish. Background flavours of salt, dark fruit and caramel sweetness with some sort of hint of citrus.

Finish: Long and elegant; A lovely mixture of peat, salt and fruit sweetness; It drags you in and makes you want another

Note: I wanted to complete these notes as a blind tasting, but as soon as I smelled the aromas I knew what I had in my glass. There is nothing quite like Lagavulin.

Update Jan 2017: I’ve finished off a few other bottles of Lagavulin 16 (all bottled in 2010). My tasting notes remain the same but I’ve had to adjust my scoring. I’ve decreased the mouthfeel, palate and finish all from 5.0 to 4.5 due to the slight lack of each compared to higher strength bottlings . This brings the total score from 5.0 down to 4.6. It hurts me to do it but it needs to be done.


My tasting notes may seem a bit biased but I absolutely love this whisky. For me it’s a shining example of what a peated whisky should be; well rounded, full bodied, thick peat with lovely sweetness while being rich and oily to the point of almost being creamy.

There is a debate amongst some as to whether Lagavulin 16 year old is solely matured in ex-bourbon casks or if it is sherry finished. In all honestly, I have never had anyone from Diageo guarantee that they use sherry casks, but I don’t doubt the sweetness comes from refill sherry casks.

From my perspective, there isn’t much debate about whether you should buy a bottle of Lagavulin 16 or not… it’s a debate of how many you should buy. I always have 3 bottles in the house…

Unfortunately though, due to the success of this whisky in popular culture (mostly notably as being the preferred whisky of my television hero and man-crush subject Ron Swanson from “Parks and Recreation”) it is almost impossible to find this bottle at prices that have not been marked up compared to years past. I used to be able to purchase this bottle for about $56USD from my local Costco, but it seems that those days are gone. So while I adore this whisky, at a $100USD price-point the value for money definitely takes a hit… but still worth it in my mind.

Update Jan 2017: Prices of Lagavulin 16 Year old seem to have dropped back to around $60. Happy days!

This tasting was completed at the request of a fellow blogger (Gentleman Grimm). I guess he heard how much I love Lagavulin, but noticed that I had no tasting notes posted… thanks for pushing me to write down my notes. This one’s for you Grimm.

Note: I am usually a proponent for adding water to whisky to open up the nose and palate to more subtle flavours, but Lagavulin 16 is the exception to the rule. I suggest you try it for yourself if you’re curious, but Lagavulin is bottled at 43%abv which is already diluted a bit too much for my tastes.


About Lagavulin

The Diageo owned distillery was established in 1816 on the Scottish island of legend that is Islay. It’s said that in the 19th century Lagavulin tried to emulate the success of neighbour Laphroaig by setting up identical stills and replicating the recipe. However by using a different water supply and having a different bond location for the maturation, the final product was distinctly different. Whatever the truth, I’m just glad that both are in existence today for our enjoyment.

Lagavulin are known for balance and roundness of flavour as well as their heavy use of peat, which is noticeably different to all of the other Islay distilleries.

17 Comments on “Lagavulin 16 Year Old

Norrie Galbraith
February 4, 2016 at 11:39 am

When I first bought a bottle of 16yo, I decided it was for myself and friends who like me know a bit about whisky and a bit about Lagavulin
After my third bottle of 16yo, I thought it wasn’t exciting anymore, and then during the Islay Festival, and a visit to the Distillery where I by chance purchased The Distillers Edition 1995 double matured I can only say, it’s magnificent, it’s richness comes from Pedro Ximenez cask wood in which it has been doubly matured, and as you’d expect reeks of Lagavulin peat and is a very sweet grapey taste and very long lasting and…. I could go on.
If by chance you stumble upon this bottle, please, don’t hesitate to make the purchase, you will not be disappointed …slainte.

Whisky Fiend
February 4, 2016 at 2:10 pm

I haven’t tried the 1995 bottling of The Distillers Edition, but I have tried the 1996. While it is definitely a great dram and I did enjoy it, I honestly prefer Lagavulin 16 year old… but I will keep my eyes open for the 1995 bottling. Thanks for the recommendation.
I’m surprised that you didn’t find the 16yo that exciting after 3 bottles (note that I believe the recipe has changed in recent years to be more similar to the great 1990s bottlings). Do you think it could be that your palate has developed towards different flavour profiles (sounds like you enjoy highly sherried peated whiskies)? I’ll guess that you’re a fan of Ardbeg Uigeadail or Bunnahabhain 18yo?

Chris Staples
February 4, 2016 at 1:26 pm

Agreed, when you go to most other drams, then back to Lagavulin you are immediately blown away and all the positive things about the other malts tried are blown completely out of the water. I actually think it is well priced at £48 in the UK! And definitely sherry casking!

Whisky Fiend
February 4, 2016 at 2:15 pm

I agree. To me it’s by far the most complex of the entry-level (if you can call a 16yo that) peated whiskies on the market. I guess I’ve been a bit spoiled by the $56USD bottles… $70 is really a decent price for a such a great 16yo whisky.

February 4, 2016 at 2:34 pm

Wondering about your take on the 12 yo Lagavulin.

Whisky Fiend
February 4, 2016 at 4:50 pm

Lagavulin 12 is an interesting one. I love higher abv whisky because it lets me choose where I think the dilution is best to maintain flavour and decrease alcohol bite. The 12yo (to my knowledge) is non-chill filtered, uncoloured, 100% bourbon cask and limited annual run (batches vary a bit every year)… so it’s a very different whisky from the 16yo. Unfortunately, all of this drives the price up to $130USD or so. With that being said, I am a fan of the 12yo but I’d lean towards calling it less well-rounded with less depth than the 16yo… but it has it’s own unique characteristics. I hope to write a full review in future.

What do you think of the 12yo?

February 4, 2016 at 4:58 pm

I like it but, like you I still prefer the 16 and, you’re right, the bottling that finishes the Lagavulin in Ximenez casks is superb, and a bit pricey. While Lagavulin 16 yo is my go to Scotch, I have a real fondness for the Abelour A’bunadh. Have you tried that?

Whisky Fiend
February 4, 2016 at 5:22 pm

Yeah that’s a great dram. Looks we might have similar tastes. It’s another I’d like to review, but haven’t gotten my hands on it in a while. If you’d like to share your bottle, I’m happy to review 😉

February 5, 2016 at 12:16 pm

Not sure if any here also like Bourbon but if you do I’ll recommend William Larue Weller — very hard to get as it is bottled once a year and if your local store can get it you might have to enter a lottery to be allowed to buy it. First time I found one it cost $45, last one I bought was $80 and I think the store didn’t realize what they had. A friend “won a lottery and paid $110 a year ago.

Douglas Wyman
February 4, 2016 at 7:32 pm

16 has been my drink of choice for years, but for special occasions I get out my 1991 Distillers Edition. Magnificent!

Whisky Fiend
February 4, 2016 at 11:14 pm

That’s a great way to celebrate special occasions! The Lagavulin batches from the 90s were amazing

Norrie Galbraith
February 5, 2016 at 4:03 pm

Yes,yes,yes, the previous Lagavulin whiskys were superb, but, and here comes the but, they haven’t come kicking and screaming into the new world of whiskies.

They prefer to lie low and continue a specific, but again it doesn’t prove they have worldwide approval because they stay in the background dependent on regular buyers.
Unless they change, they will always play catch up and therefore diminish their abilities to perform in a world market.

Whisky Fiend
February 5, 2016 at 5:27 pm

I honestly feel that peated whiskies will never have broad market appeal. Lagavulin 16 is about as broad as it’s going to get, and that’s largely due to pop culture. Peated whisky will always be a niche product (though with a big market in itself), so unless Lagavulin choose to bring out a delicious unpeated whisky the way Bruichladdich have, they will likely never become a huge household name like the hugely popular Speyside and Highland distilleries.

February 4, 2016 at 8:40 pm


I am a true believer in Lagavulin as well.

Unfortunately, my lovely country (/sarcasm) has +200% tariff for alcohol.
(to protect local distilleries cough cough mafia cough cough)

and LVG16yo is not only rare, but also priced as high as 250$ a bottle or something…

to add things into perspective, our minimum wage = 10 US$ per DAY lol

ok, enough for sob story,

fortunately enough, I usually travel abroad few times a year,
and grab 1-2 bottles back each time.

I found myself preferring 12yo to 16yo, for its freshness, openness and punch.
I found 16yo a bit too rounded (artificially rounded?) and just a bit too much caramel-y for my taste.

However, 12yo, as you mentioned, are sooo different each batch.

2010 is so strong and dried, while 2011 is sweet and balanced.
I can’t find both of those batches anywhere anymore though.
now only 2014 is available or sometime 2013 on amazon with ridiculous price.

Anyway, really enjoyed your review. Please keep up your good work.

*sorry for my English though, it’s not my first language XD

Whisky Fiend
February 4, 2016 at 11:09 pm

Thanks for sharing. Interesting stuff.
I haven’t tried as many of the 12yo batches as I would have liked. It’s hard to get your hands… but I’ll keep trying.

Manfred La Grange-Aulich
February 4, 2016 at 9:32 pm

Lagavulin PX the real deal


[…] My regular readers will know that I have a soft spot for Lagavulin (if you don’t believe me read my review of the 16 year old), so I would never say no to stopping by. I had my fingers crossed that I could try the 200th […]


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